Kendall Nordin – Artist

Kendall Nordin is a Washington DC based Contemporary Artist who recently had an exhibition at ARS upstairs @ the Napier (the Napier Hotel in Fitzroy). I recently caught up with Kendall for a quick chat.

Why did you choose this venue?
I did my masters at RMIT with some of the folks who began the ARS Upstairs @ the Napier so it seemed a natural place to apply for a show.  When I heard about the space and saw images, I thought it would work well with my work– a space that has been repurposed.  I hadn’t seen it in person before I arrived to get ready for the exhibition and it was a very pleasant surprise.  The pressed tin along the wall and some of the ceiling textures work very well with some of the textures in the paper pieces I make.  And the big windows really allow the pieces to change with the day.  It’s a beautiful, quirky, and large space.  And I couldn’t be happier with how my art sits in it.


Why these works?
These works represent the major pieces I’ve been working on for the last year and a half to two years.  Though the approaches are different, it has been a pleasure to see them finally hanging all together and commenting on each other, reflecting some common ideas and spinning off on their own tacks.


What’s your methodology/philosophy with this show?
In my work I am chasing after the circumstances of being human—the topography of skin, the accidents of our origins and evolution, our ability to symbolize and find meaning, play, the desire for relationship, the fact of dissolution, and the constant of the unknown.

Because of this my art involves a lot of incidental pieces—created moments of randomness that then get built upon—or layers and layers of meaning that might be obfuscated—or multiples that are completely different but arranged in a way to suggest connection.  I use paper, ink, watercolor, thread, cutting, sewing, drawing, pouring, ball bearings, letting things do what they do and reacting with attention to spontaneity, precariousness, organic form, and transparency. Some pieces disappear entirely from certain angles and only reappear when the angle of view changes or the available light moves.

My forms are all raw data, it is up to the viewers to come up with narratives.  I want people to find something familiar, something plausibly organic, in my work but a something that is not quite comfortable nor completely recognizable.  The result, I hope, is a shift in the quality of attention that someone brings to the space.  People approach my work and get drawn into the small details, the subtle shifts in tone and walk away with slower, quieter eyes.


You’re in the USA? then how come Melbourne?
I came to Melbourne to do my MFA in 2005 for many reasons– and couldn’t have anticipated what a good fit it was for me as cities go.  The sheer quantity of art and music being produced and shown on a daily basis here is stunning– and a wonderful experience coming from a place like Washington DC where we have a lot of beautiful big museums with important historical art but not a great deal of local galleries who are showing Contemporary Art– particularly non-commercial spaces.  I had never heard of an “Artist Run Space” until I arrived here.  They simply don’t exist in the model back home.  Beyond the amount of work that’s out to be seen, there is work that really challenges me and engages with the International art scene– which is where I’d really like to be located rather than chasing after the US/New York art scene.  I’m not so interested in that world.  So Melbourne feels like a productive place, a place where boundaries can be pushed and dialogue is readily had.


Your history is interesting tell us a little…
I’m a bit all over the place with my “history”.  I’ve played music, tour managed a band, helped produce documentary film, worked in a 4 star restaurant, lobbied for Low Power FM Radio, taught preschool, written/performed/published/taught poetry, studied Religion.  I’ve lived in DC, Portland Oregon, Costa Rica, Glasgow, Nanjing, Melbourne and did a long residency in Tallinn, Estonia this past summer.  In terms of art making I really started with a focus on photography, then did some drawing, then painting, now this– whatever it is you might call it.  Usually I call it “installation work with paper”.  I think I use different modes of making things in order to do really different things.


How about your method of working?
Sometimes a material grabs me, sometimes I just have an idea that needs to get worked out, sometimes I let a pen and paper react to what’s around me.  I think like all artists I get stimulation from a lot of different avenues and its a matter of following up on those impulses, pushing them to where they need to be and then seeing how that might fit or not.  I have pieces that are ongoing, which will take many years to complete.  I have a list of pieces that I keep for when I have some serious funding to make big ambitious work.  And then there are the pieces, which just seem to appear and I put my head down, I work at it, and they often surprise me at the end.

What’s next?
The week after the show comes down I’ll be doing a Skype “Studio-to-Studio conversation from 16 hours in the future” from my studio in Melbourne to the big annual open studios event at my building in DC.  It’s going to be part performance, part serious conversation about making art, the difference between DC and Melbourne, and what art is anyway.  After that I’m looking forward to making some new work.  Seeing this body of work hang together makes me have some good sense of where I might go from here and where I might decide to pick up and go in a different direction.  My colleague here, Hannah Bertram, and I will be doing a 24-hour drawing project (the 6th one we’ve done) in May.  It looks like there might be a 22 piece all girl rock orchestra PANIC might get a show while I’m here as well.  That’s all before June.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Sophia Hewson – Artist

Sophia Hewson from Melbourne is an up and coming artist in the Melbourne scene, here is her website and interview… Feel free to comment on the work, interview and or Artist.


Are you currently represented by a gallery?
Yes, Lindberg Gallery in Melbourne. They are great. Last year they let me paint the entire gallery space black.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Oil paint with resin on either board or canvas.


African migrant

Oil and resin on board

108 cm  x  76 cm

What are you currently working on?
I’m working towards a joint show this September at Lindberg Gallery with artist Mia Salsjo. I’lI be doing some paintings and some sculptural work. I’m feeling very free at the moment within my practice. I hope the paintings in September will relay this sense. It’s a sense that began around the time I started the dolphin painting (There should be a book written on Italian men).

Why are you an artist?
It seems to me artists need to get something out of themselves, I suppose they call it expression, but I don’t think it’s as pleasant a process as that, perhaps it is like that quote, a kind of exorcism. I think also for me there is a need to try and get down to the core of things, and there is a freedom I associate with being an artist or at least the possibility of a freedom.


There should be a book written on Italian men

Oil and resin on board

140 cm  x  180 cm

Your art education was…? I studied an undergraduate and an Honours Degree at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, it was a very conceptual school. There are so many ways to approach understanding your own work, this was the focus of the degree, it could be disorienting, but the teachers at the VCA are remarkable, they’re artists too and they were lateral minded, they were very receptive and talented.

What is your earliest memory of art?
My earliest memory of anything actually is drawing with coloured chalk on the pavement down at Lorne, I was about 3.


The Armour

Oil and resin on board

133 cm  x  133 cm

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
For me There is an incomplete concept present before a painting, which develops during the process of making the work (photo-shoot, painting etc). It develops further after I have finished the work (when I can step back and gain a more detached understanding). So I think the concept of a work gathers momentum as it materialises, it changes and develops throughout this process. But also each painting is different, some do just seem to appear out of nowhere, and others are mulling, completed and understood in my head for a year before I make them.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Despite my own use of a refined technique I don’t think craftsmanship is necessarily important at all, it can be a beautiful way to lure someone into the conceptual space of a work, but there are many other ways to do this. I just saw Miroslaw Balka’s “How it is” instillation at the Tate. It was a huge elevated metal box, well ‘box’… it was bigger than a warehouse, and pitch black inside, approaching it and eventually venturing inside was like death and birth all at once, like an alien contact, absolutely overwhelming, and those sensations had little to do with craftsmanship.


Tailed emperor

Oil and resin on board

58 cm  x  52 cm

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post education is about five years, any thoughts on that?
The only people as broke as artist are poets, and artist work hard, most of my peers work long days 3 or 4 times a week in arbitrary jobs, with every skerrick of the rest of their time spent in the studio. Doing well in the first 5 years out of study for an artist is breaking even. What recognition there is, is dealt out in bursts, never evenly distributed. So its unlikely you’ll get anyone but yourself to assure you that you should be doing this. A lot of good artists are dealing with frequent rejection.


In my language. There are no rules. There is no need to know, anything.

Oil and resin on board

109 cm  x  140 cm

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why? It would be a Van Gogh, and then I would sell it and buy a house, and a studio. I would make my work uninterrupted.


Hero and Leander

Oil and resin on board

105 cm  x  138 cm

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work? Its very diverse, some people are very unaffected, some people cry, a few have admitted to arousal, once a work was destroyed. I like the tears best, I could always have more tears.


Goodnight Atala

Oil and resin on canvas

216 cm  x  216cm

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
I need to have an uninterrupted 10 hours of day light. That’s best but once I’ve started an arm or a leg I have to finish it before the paint dries, so I often end up in the evenings with a torch in one hand. I can angle a torch so that it wont give off a reflection.


Before Atala was born I was her

Oil and resin on board

185 cm   x  99 cm

How many artworks do you produce in a year?
I make about 6 large works. So that’s about 2 months a painting, but really a lot of that 2 months is spent conceiving an idea, doing a photo shoot for the painting, editing, writing applications and artist statements, documenting my work etc.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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